Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (Images: AAP)

We were never meant to be in this mess. For most of 2021, in most of Australia, life was mostly normal. So normal we lost any sense of urgency about the vaccine rollout. Still, we assumed we’d figured out how to keep the virus at bay until enough of the population was vaccinated.

Then along came Delta, the beastly, fast-moving, more infectious variant. Delta is harder to stop because people who get it have higher viral loads sooner after being infectious. They shed more virus sooner, and are infectious for longer. That's left us with a strain up to 60% more infectious than previous variants.

And once it got out into Australia's largest cities, it was always going to leave governments and health authorities playing catch-up. Now half the country is in lockdown, and the Morrison government is scrambling. Within a matter of days, Delta has forced it to throw promises out the window. It’s rewriting the rules about good pandemic management in real time. And it leaves Australia facing a winter of discontent, where we're even more divided and uncertain about how we manage the next phase of the pandemic.